Terrorism, interrogation, and the great cultural divide

On Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal and NBC News published the latest in a string of polls that suggest Senate Democrats’ grandstanding attempt to impugn the Bush-era CIA with a “bombshell” report on the interrogation of terrorists has backfired pretty badly:


Most Americans don’t object to the CIA’s interrogation techniques that some call torture, according to the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.

After being told the CIA used “harsh interrogation practices on suspected terrorists,” 51% of those surveyed said the practices were “acceptable under the circumstances.” Only 28% said the interrogations were wrong and 20% said they didn’t have an opinion.

President Barack Obama ended the practice, known legally as “enhanced interrogation”, early in his White House tenure. But 45% of those polled said the CIA should continue to use them, while just 28% said they are wrong and should not be used.

The poll question didn’t use the word “torture” when it asked about the CIA’s detention and interrogation program, which relied on methods including sleep deprivation and waterboarding to try to get overseas terror suspects to share information while in U.S. custody.

Actually, some of the other polls on this subject did use the word “torture,” including a YouGov survey that obtained roughly comparable results.  The number of respondents to that poll who said “torture” is never justified was 24 percent.  The number who said it was always or sometimes justified totaled up to 66 percent.  No one seems able to produce a poll that shows the majority of Americans agreeing with Senate Democrats.  On the contrary, these surveys seem to agree that the public finds the Democrat report more problematic than enhanced interrogation itself was.  The YouGov survey found a remarkable 52-29 margin to support that proposition.

The Democrats couldn’t have realized their report would be quickly followed by a fresh round of heinous terrorist news – the Sydney hostage situation, the Taliban’s inhuman slaughter of children at a Pakistani school, a car bomb in Yemen that killed 15 children inside a school bus.  For extra added tension, the North Koreans who have been plaguing Sony with hacker attacks over the upcoming Dear Leader-mocking comedy “The Interview” are now threatening 9/11-style terror attacks on theaters showing the film.  “The world will be full of fear,” their latest communique promised.  “Remember the 11th of September 2001.  We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time.  (If your house is nearby, you’d better leave.)  Whatever comes in the coming days is called by the greed of Sony Pictures Entertainment.”


All in all, not a good time for sobbing Democrats to embrace terrorists and wail about the unspeakable evil of forcing them to do without sleep, listen to loud music, go on crash diets, and suck on wet towels.  But you know what?  They should have known it would be a bad time.  It’s always a bad time.  We’re never more than a week or two away from the next terrorist atrocity.  Evil pours from ISIS-dominated territory in a constant toxic stream.  “Lone wolf” terrorists roam in packs across the globe, responding to explicit calls from caliphate leadership to strike out at their host countries.  The odds of headline terrorist outrages occurring within a week or two of the Senate Democrat report dropping were always much higher than the chances they’d get a few news cycles of clear sailing to flog whatever dopey moral-equivalence or hate-Bush message they’re trying to send.

There’s a huge cultural divide between Beltway political operators and normal people, including rank-and-file Democrat voters.  The partisan breakdowns of those post-CIA-report polls display a bit more sympathy for the Democrat position, but it looks more like an even split between those who vehemently oppose interrogation and those who consider it sometimes justified, as opposed to the lopsided majorities who don’t care much about the psychic distress of terrorists once Republicans and independents are added in.  I wonder what Democrat opposition to enhanced interrogation would poll like if they learned Barack Obama had authorized it, or if their 2016 presidential candidate said it was sometimes justified.  They seem perfectly copacetic with Obama using drones to vaporize terrorists, even when there’s substantial collateral damage.


The elite have an obsession with the political dimensions of war, viewing it through the same lens they employ to survey every aspect of life.  What will international bodies say about our harsh interrogation techniques?  How might they make it more difficult for us to negotiate with the enemy?  Won’t the enemy use our sinister practices as a tool to whip up anti-American frenzy and recruit more foot soldiers?  (Of course, the authors of this CIA interrogation report didn’t seem at all concerned with producing a document that could be used by terrorist recruiters.)  Isn’t rough treatment of terrorist prisoners a violation of our national principles… and isn’t hypocrisy the worst sin anyone can be accused of?

That latter point animates the political class far more that does normal people.  Hypocrisy is supposed to be the trump card that settles political arguments.  It’s considered quite the rhetorical artillery barrage in Washington.  It doesn’t actually count for all that much with the Islamist enemy, who can cheerfully justify all sorts of seemingly contradictory positions.  You could say a great deal of Western leaders’ rhetoric toward the Islamists about what Islam “really” means, how their actions are justified by no religious tradition, and how they’re strolling down “the wrong side of history” amounts to charges of hypocrisy.  Western politicians seem to honestly believe they’re scoring devastating debate points.

In reality, this enemy, more than most, appreciates the necessity of doing whatever it takes to win.  They have the barbarian’s keen instinct for turning the scruples of the civilization they detest against it, gaming civilized laws with delight and using Western institutions to their advantage.  (It’s no coincidence that so many Islamist organizers living in Western nations are on welfare; one of them, Anjem Choudary of England, famously encouraged his followers to think of public assistance as a form of the jizya tax Muslims are supposed to extract from conquered infidels, a “jihad seeker’s allowance.”)


Islam fits easily into this strategy by providing followers with the moral authorization to hold double standards, practice deception, and carry out acts of violence that don’t comport with the Western understanding of lawful warfare.  It also provides structure to the sort of aggression that easily degenerates into lawless anarchy.  Not every Muslim follows Islam that way, but that was never really the problem, or the point those worried about the rise of Islamism over the past few decades were trying to make.  The question is not, “does Islam turn every follower into a violent fanatic?” but rather, “can Islam be very useful to violent fanatics?”  The answer to the former is definitely not, while the latter is unfortunately yes.  Both of those answers are equally obvious.

The resulting conflict is not like those we have fought before.  The enemy recognizes no Geneva Conventions, and yet the Western elite thinks they can be accused of hypocrisy for failing to extend such considerations to a savage enemy, free of charge.  The importance of developing intelligence on the activities of an asymmetrical foe, especially when they’re plotting attacks against civilian targets on American soil, is paramount… but our elite attacks the intelligence community at every opportunity, especially when they think they’ve entered a lull between hot wars, because scoring points off the spooks is easy.  They can’t fight back.  Much of the evidence they might use to defend themselves is classified.  Denouncing their activities provides a moralistic sugar high, a chance for the grandstanding politician or pundit to say, I am so much better than these people.


They’re also saying that to the people who support our military and intelligence services, but it’s a backhanded slap you’re not supposed to notice until the red welt has begun to fade from your cheek.  One of the elite’s presumptions is that their knuckle-dragging subjects are eager for war, especially against scary people who don’t look like them.  They have trouble criticizing this war fever directly, because it alienates voters and makes the elite look unpatriotic.  The CIA and other shadowy agencies make the perfect proxy for venting such bile.  They’re supposed to be the chink in your warmongering armor that you can’t defend.

But people did defend them, and [mc_name name=’Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’F000062′ ] and her crew seem completely flummoxed by it.  This was supposed to be an easy layup.  There wasn’t supposed to be a stream of polls that showed the interrogation report was viewed more dimly by the American public than what transpired in the back rooms of Guantanamo Bay.  The American people don’t want to see anyone tortured… or shot, or blown up, or erased by killer robots.  But we’re not talking about just “anyone,” and it’s not a question of what we “want.”  As always, the aggressor set the rules of this conflict, and people in 2014 aren’t all that interested in second-guessing the initial response of our defenders in 2002.

They certainly aren’t in agreement with the proposition that we’re as bad as, or even worse than, the primitive butchers of the Taliban or the giddy head-choppers of ISIS (who have, according to the latest reports, taken to lobbing shells full of live scorpions at their victims in the poor man’s bio-terror program.)  Is making parents collect the remains of their children from a bullet-riddled school “torture?”  How about forcing terrified captives to stand for hours holding a fascist flag in a cafe window?


Former Vice President Dick Cheney said the horrors visited upon 9/11 victims and their families qualified as torture in his book, sending liberal pundits to their fainting couches.  News flash, lefties: most Americans agree with him, and the more you shriek and sob about how important it is to extend five-star hospitality to captive terrorists, the further you distance themselves from the rest of the nation.  Enhanced interrogation to extract information that could save innocent lives?  You bet.  In  hot second.  And you know damn well every last one of you would agree, if the innocent life in question was yours, or your family’s.  You’re trying to rack up points in a political argument while the enemy racks up mutilated corpses.  We’re tired of the efforts to legitimize savages by giving them the same rights as soldiers, in a Cargo Cult effort to conjure the essence of civilization with a crude facsimile of its trappings.  None of this is complicated, despite constant efforts to make it so, and it’s only as ugly as the enemy wants it to be.  It all ends when they want to end, and not a moment sooner.  That much about war hasn’t changed, and never will.





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